Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bean Bags
I have always been surprised about how many photographers don't know what a bean bag is, or how to use it. Vancouver, being the outdoorsy city that it is, provides plenty of opportunities for location shoots, and road trips with amazing photo opportunities close to your vehicle.
We are currently planning next years African Photo Safari (spoiler alert: you are invited!) and thought we do a quick introduction to bean bags and their usage, as well as show you my favorite model, the Gura Gear "Sabi Sack". No, Gura Gear is not a sponsor, and we don't get kick backs, I simply love this bag!
First things first: What is a bean bag? It's primarily a camera stabilizer most commonly used when shooting from a vehicle, e.g. on Safari. On east african safaris, the roof pops off and allows you a pretty much an unobstructed, 360 degree view while still providing sun protection.
A bean bag consists, essentially, of two bags sewn together. They travel easily (empty, of course), and when on location, you fill them with rice, beans, lentils, even sand if you are in a pinch. When you leave, you give the food to someone in need and make their day.
Beans bags are very versatile at home, too. I use them pretty much every day: As door stoppers, counter weights for light stands, tripod weights, prop windows open, weigh down seamless, etc. Whenever I go on a road trip, I have a few of them in the truck.
In short: They are awesome.
Bean bags are also a prime example for "simple is best". Over the years, I have tried pretty much every model that is out there. There are some with huge pockets, some with integrated tripod mounts, some with other bells and whistles... At the end of the day, the added "features" never provided any real value, but ended up breaking scratching stuff, getting caught somewhere, and lets not forget: They add to the price of the product.
My personal favorite, the Gura Gear "Sabi Sack", is my all time favorite. My first one has been with me on every continent. It has been stepped on, run over, abused, fallen of trucks and mountain sides. It got run over by donkeys, pigs and horses. It got soiled by pretty much anything from oil to puke. It still looks... well... not "new", but "good enough", and it wears it's still going strong and wears its battle scars with pride. It's a simple piece of equipment of very high value, that hold a lot of memories for me.
As often times in life: Simple is best!
P.S: The "Sabi Sack" comes in two sizes, the "regular" Sabi Sack and the "Super Sabi". I do own one, but never really use it. I give it to Safari clients when they pull out their 800mm, just to give them the feel of having something substantial. To be honest, the smaller version works just fine.